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The Season: Season's screenings

By JESSE PAPINEAU  |  December 11, 2013

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WHERE'S FROSTY? A scene from Community's "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas."

SEASONAL SITCOMS

Most TV shows inevitably end up doing a Christmas episode that often seems forced or out of place. However, here are a handful of standout holiday shows delivered by some of the best modern comedies.

“The Gang” pulls no punches in It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia ’s “A Very Sunny Christmas,” which reflects on Mac and Charlie’s Christmas pasts, revealing that they were complicit in grand theft and prostitution as children, too! (Netflix)

“Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” is a smart send-up of nearly every animated holiday special done in Community ’s signature, meta way — in a stop-motion, claymation world that exists only in the mind of one of the characters. (Hulu, Amazon, and iTunes)

Though Ludachristmas might be only the second-best holiday invented by sitcom characters, 30 Rock ’s funniest seasonal episode deals with the many problems and few benefits surrounding this time of year. (Netflix.)

“Christmas Party,” the first of many holiday specials on The Office , features a cringe-worthy Secret Santa-turned-Yankee Swap. And check out The League ’s “Kegel the Elf,” Futurama ’s “A Tale of Two Santas,” Parks and Recreation ’s “Christmas Scandal,” and any South Park involving Mr. Hankey. (All on Netflix.)

QUICK BINGES

Just because you have a tree in your living room doesn’t mean you’re stuck celebrating the spirit of the season all month. These four shows had stellar debut seasons this year and are all worthy of a binge-watch before they come back in the New Year.

FX’s The Americans is basic cable’s Homeland if it were set in the Cold War and, you know, actually good. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys play undercover Russian spies posing as an average suburban married couple who are their FBI agent neighbor’s prime target. There’s plenty of suspense, mystery, and action, but often the highlight of the show is the ongoing balancing act being played by many family members leading double lives. (Amazon, iTunes, and FX VOD)

Netflix’s most critically acclaimed original series to date is Orange Is the New Black , a delightful dramedy centered around a hip engaged woman in her 30s who is sent to prison for a decade-old drug charge that she got with her ex-girlfriend — who is serving time in the same place. It’s amazing that such a well-written show led by a diverse, mostly female ensemble was passed on by most of the networks, but at least it’s helped justify the Netflix streaming model.

Originally intended to be a mini-series, Sundance’s Rectify is a beautifully shot and deliberately paced show about a Georgia man released from prison after spending most of his adult life on death row. His return home is met with outrage by townsfolk and lawmen alike, who want to see him put back in jail. It’s a complicated, dark story that’s well-established in just six compelling episodes. (iTunes, VOD, and Sundance’s website)

And don’t let Fox’s aggressive ad campaign beat you into submission — Almost Human isn’t the best new sci-fi show of the year, but BBC America’s Orphan Black is. After witnessing the suicide of a woman who looks exactly like her, Elizabeth Childs discovers she, and many clones of her body (all played with subtle differences by Tatiana Maslany), are involved in a worldwide conspiracy that gets exceedingly wilder as the 10-episode season progresses. (Amazon, iTunes, and VOD)
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